Legislation that governs New Zealand's education system and legislative changes affecting schools, kura and early learning services.

We work to make sure that everyone in the New Zealand education system is aware of, and meets their legal responsibilities under, the education legislation.

Key Legislation

Education Act 1989

The Education Act 1989 establishes the legal framework for our education system, including early childhood education, compulsory schooling, international education and tertiary education.

Education Act 1989 — NZ Legislation website (external link)

Education Act 1964

A few key provisions relating to the education system remain in the Education Act 1964, including the legal framework for:

  • secular education
  • religious instruction
  • establishment and disestablishment of special schools.

Education Act 1964 — NZ Legislation website (external link)

Recent Acts passed

Education Amendment Act 2019

The Education Amendement Act 2019 came into force on 14 May 2019. It amends the Education Act 1989, Education Act 1964 and the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017. Most provisions in the Act take effect from that date.  Provisions relating to cohort entry policies take effect from 1 January 2020. 

Education Amendment Act 2019 further details 

Education Amendment Act 2018

The Education Amendment Act 2018 came into effect on 24 October 2018. It amends the Education Act 1989 and the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017.

The Act:

  • removes the provisions relating to national standards and the partnership school model from legislation
  • improves the governance of tertiary education institutions by restoring places for elected staff and students on their councils
  • supports the introduction of Fees-Free tertiary education by making it an offence to make a false representation about an application for Fees-Free tertiary education
  • improves the new strategic planning and reporting framework for State and State-integrated schools and enables a smooth transition to the new regime. This includes changing the duration of a strategic plan from 4 years to 3 years or a shorter time period determined by the Secretary, and delaying the commencement of the framework.

Education Amendment Act 2018

Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Act 2018

The Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Act came into effect on 29 September 2018. The Act changes the name of the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand to the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.

It also increases the number of council members from 9 to 13, with 7 registered teachers — including early childhood sector leaders and principals — to be directly elected by their peers and 6 members appointed by the Minister of Education.

Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Act (external link)

Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2018

The Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Act came into effect on 30 March 2018. The public policy objectives of the Act are to:

  • increase provider accountability and strengthen monitoring and compliance
  • support fair treatment of tertiary education provider
  • broaden student protection arrangements.

Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Act (external link)

The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017

The Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 (the Update Act) came into effect on 19 May 2017. It amends the Education Act 1989 to make the achievement and learning of children and young people central to the early childhood education and compulsory schooling Parts of the Act.

Note: some provisions of the (Update) Act are yet to come into force, including commencement of the planning and reporting framework for schools and kura.

Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 (external link)

Current Bills

Bills are drafts of proposed new laws. Once a bill passes through the House of Representatives, and receives the Royal assent, it becomes an Act. 

Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill

The Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill was introduced on 30 May 2019. It had its Second Reading on 22 August 2019. It amends the Education Act 1989 in order to support the school donations scheme announced as part of Budget 2019.

This Bill:

  • creates a new category of grants called discretionary grants
  • provides that the Minister of Education may pay discretionary grants to boards subject to the condition that a board does not solicit voluntary payments from parents, and any other condition as determined by the Minister
  • enables funding provided as discretionary grants to be effectively recovered from boards that have failed to comply with the conditions of that funding.

Further information about the Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill 

Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill

The Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill was introduced on 26 August 2019. It amends the Education Act 1989 and repeals the Industry Training and Apprenticeships Act 1992 in order to create a unified and cohesive vocational education and training system.

The Bill is part of the reform of vocational education announced on 1 August 2019.

This Bill:

  • establishes a new regulatory framework for vocational education and training
  • enables workforce development councils to be established
  • establishes the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology
  • provides transitional arrangements to enable a smooth transfer of functions and responsibilities from the current to the new system.

The Bill has been referred to the Education and Workforce Committee.

Make a submission to the Committee (external link)

Further information on the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill

International Student legislation

Two regulations cover the care and wellbeing of international students studying in New Zealand. These are the:

  • Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code Of Practice 2016
  • International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme (DRS).

Regulations to better support international students

There is also legislation that outlines the definition of a domestic student for schools and tertiary education.

Definition of a domestic student in New Zealand

Disclosure statements

Disclosure statements provide development and content information about legislation that is being proposed by Government.

Disclosure statements relating to education bills since 2013 are available on the New Zealand Legislation website.

Disclosures — New Zealand Legislation website (external link)

Regulatory Impact Statements

Regulatory impact statements (RIS) support all bills that are being introduced to House of Representatives. They also support all proposed regulations.

RISs include:

  • a high-level summary of the issue that is being addressed
  • the options and associated costs and benefits of each option
  • details of consultation regarding the issue
  • proposed arrangements for implementing and reviewing the legislation.

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